• Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Thai junta orders free World Cup TV

BBC Online
A Thai shopper watches a soccer match on a flat-panel television at a shopping mall in Bangkok, Thailand Wednesday, June 11 Football is extremely popular in Thailand
A Thai shopper watches a soccer match on a flat-panel television at a shopping mall in Bangkok, Thailand Wednesday, June 11 Football is extremely popular in Thailand

Thailand's ruling junta has ordered TV regulators to ensure that football fans will not have to pay to watch any matches at the World Cup.

The military said it was part of its "happiness campaign", which has seen a number of policy gimmicks, such as free haircuts and concerts.

The broadcaster that bought the rights to show the World Cup is reportedly claiming $21.5m (£13m) in compensation.

The junta overthrew the government last month promising to restore order.

It has since cracked down on dissent, detaining hundreds of potential opponents and releasing them with warnings about their future behaviour.

Bangkok and some other parts of the country remain under curfew.

In an attempt to subdue opposition to the coup, the military has been running a charm offensive alongside its repression.

The BBC's Jonathan Head in Bangkok says ensuring the World Cup can be watched by everyone is central to this so-called happiness campaign.

The RS broadcaster had already bought the rights to the matches and planned to allow only a third to be shown on free-to-air channels.

To see all of them viewers would have to buy a decoder, at a cost beyond many poorer Thais.

So the military has ordered the national broadcasting regulator to negotiate a deal for all the matches to be shown at no cost, despite the potentially hefty compensation claims.

Our correspondent says the military seems willing to spend generously to win hearts and minds.

It is already promising to subsidise farmers, to revive ambitious infrastructure spending plans and to cap the costs of basic foods.

The initiatives are borrowed from the government that the junta overthrew after months protests often directed at those same policies.

Published: 11:31 am Thursday, June 12, 2014

Last modified: 9:46 pm Thursday, June 12, 2014

TAGS: Thailand Bangkok world cup Junta

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